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Mack finds new customers and old with return of medium-duty truck

Sophomore campaign swings to vocational applications with heavier-duty transmission

Mack Trucks garnered 3.7% of the medium-duty truck market in the first year of its new MD Series. (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)

INDIANAPOLIS — Mack Trucks took a 20-year vacation from medium-duty trucks. In its first year back, about four in 10 customers were already buying heavy-duty trucks with the bulldog hood ornament. That meant 60% of buyers were new to the brand.

In its first month of sales in January 2021, Mack sold 50 of its Class 6 and Class 7 MD Series. In December, Mack had 9% share of the medium-duty market. For the full year, the brand finished at 3.7%. Penetration targets were tossed aside by COVID and supply chain disruptions.

“Given the environment we were in, targets would have been pretty meaningless,” Dayle Weatherell, Mack vice president of medium-duty sales, told FreightWaves on the sidelines of the Work Truck Week event on Wednesday. “We sold everything we could build. So from zero to 3.7% in the first full year of operations is pretty reasonable.”

More than 70% of the MD trucks sold in 2021 were dry and refrigerated vans and stake trucks. The biggest purchasers were Mack dealers themselves, who displayed the medium-duty truck alongside Class 8 Anthem and Granite models in their showrooms. Customers converted the others to a variety of uses from tow trucks to road salt spreaders.

New transmission offering

Mack is enhancing the transmission offerings on the MD, adding the Allison 3000 RDS as an option for customers demanding more power but still want a medium-duty package, such as heavy-duty tow and car haulers. 

Mack sold 500 MD models to 10 bodybuilders last year, which Weatherell said were able to do most of the upfits they wanted.

Mack Trucks signature silver bulldog adorns the hood of the MD Series medium-duty trucks. (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)

The supply chain crisis, starting with semiconductors, has vexed medium-duty production in Roanoke, Virginia, as it has other truck makers. Commodities like steel and aluminum are right behind on the tick list of challenges.

“Our global truck purchasing group is doing everything they can,” Weatherell said. “They are looking further into the future than they were a year ago. They are trying to cement relationships to secure that supply chain. I’m sure they’re using whatever they need to to make sure they’ve got parts to build trucks.”

That includes locking with supply with longer-term contracts with Tier 1 suppliers like Cummins for the B6.7 diesel engine, Allison for the standard 2500 transmission and Meritor for axles.

‘Robbing from one to another’

Mack built more MD Series trucks in February than any month to date. Some parts were harvested from other products.

“There’s opportunities where you are robbing from one to another kind of thing,” Weatherell said. “At the end of the line, it comes off as a complete truck and we’re all happy.”

Sourcing the MD with off-the-shelf parts was a strategic decision, said Tim Wrinkle, who leads Mack’s construction sales. That extends to the addition of the beefier Allison transmission.

Mack has no plans to adapt its mDrive automated manual transmission from the Class 8 lineup to the MD Series, Wrinkle said.

While Mack avoided anything like an announcement, a battery-powered version of the MD is probably in future plans. Rival Navistar is building a Class 6 electric version of its MV series in Mexico and will move it to a new plant in San Antonio.

“It’s not on the cutting room floor,” Weatherell said. “It’s on somebody’s desk being studied.”

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Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.

Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.